Spanish Grand Prix: Underlying Pace

Posted on May 17, 2013


So here is the performance chart of race pace in Spain constructed using the curve fits from the intelligentF1 model.

I have put the drivers and cars in number order – as it’s most helpful for team mate comparisons. The quoted pace is underlying laptime pace relative to the fastest pace (Alonso on the hard tyres). It is interesting to note that the pace was pretty much the same (at the front) in this year’s race compared to 2012. Only Melbourne and Bahrain have seen a significant reduction in pace in comparison with 2012, despite all the fuss.

  • Vettel (Red Bull): 4th: +0.9s on medium, +0.6 on hard: The pace on the hards is based on the second stint – but they decided they couldn’t three stop at that pace as he was 0.6s slower in the remaining hard tyre stints. I have adjusted the later medium stint by this 0.6s to try to be fait – the real pace was +1.5s. If he could have four stopped at the faster pace (which I’m not totally convinced of) he would have been right with Massa at the end.
  • Webber (Red Bull): 5th: +1.0s on medium, +1.0s on hard: Has a different approach from Vettel – attacks more in the early stages of the stint and pays the price later – works out pretty similar. The four stop was the right call, and wasn’t really going to do much better. The charts are clear that Red Bull are killing the tyres when they go fast – a problem they need to solve.
  • Alonso (Ferrari): 1st: +0.4s on medium, fastest on hard: Went aggressive on four stops and it paid off. Ran most of the race just above the underlying pace of the first stint, but everyone else slowed down. Was set up to be faster on the hard. Cut his pace by 1.2s in the final stint – had loads in hand.
  • Massa (Ferrari): 3rd: +0.9s on medium, +0.8s on the hards: Did not have the tyre management of Alonso, let alone the pace. Ferrari got it right strategically, and he raced well in the opening laps to deserve his podium. But if anything, the gap to Alonso was bigger…
  • Button (McLaren): 8th: + 1.6 on medium, +1.6s on hard: Was nowhere at the start, but tyre management in the second stint when others were struggling got him back in the game. Lost little time with bad degradation and made three stops work. Much better than it looked.
  • Perez (McLaren): 9th: +1.5s on medium, +1.2s on hard: In contrast to Button, started well but had a horrible second stint. Went to a four-stop, and had the pace to beat Button, but couldn’t get past. Had McLaren wished, they could have seen if he could trouble the Di Resta/Rosberg battle as he had a chance at catching Rosberg…
  • Raikkonen (Lotus): 2nd: +0.1s on medium, +0.8s on hard: The only other guy in the race. Curiously Lotus were faster on the medium, but slower on the hard. Could have been a little faster on four stops, but not by enough. Comfortably second.
  • Grosjean (Lotus): Ret: +0.5 on medium (traffic), no data on hard: Not clear quite how competitive he would have been – best guess is around Massa/Vettel – didn’t look to be on Kimi’s pace.
  • Rosberg (Mercedes): 6th: +0.4s on medium (only for first stint – real is about +1.5s), +1.9s on hard: The first stint looked OK, but then the pace dropped dramatically. Hamilton’s race suggests that the first stint pace was not sustainable had he run mediums later. That Di Resta didn’t get past shows that Mercedes have good traction and that the DRS zones at Barcelona aren’t that long…
  • Hamilton (Mercedes): 12th: +1.6s on medium, +1.8s on hard: You’d never have imagined it, but he was marginally faster on the hard tyre that Rosberg. Lost a massive amount with the tyre falling off the cliff (very rare – only about the fifth time I have seen this) and lost 15s with that pitstops and ensuing traffic. Even so, his four stop strategy wouldn’t have got him above 10th.
  • Hulkenburg (Sauber): 15th: +1.0s on medium, +1.5s on hard: Sauber were quite quick in the race – Hulkenburg lost out by hitting Vergne in the pits, but still wouldn’t have beaten his team mate…
  • Gutierrez (Sauber): 11th: +1.2s on medium, +1.4s on hard: A breakthrough race? As fast as Hulkenburg, and his degradation was such that the three stop was the fastest way for him. A big performance step.
  • Di Resta (Force India): 7th: +1.1s on medium, +1.3s on hard: Solid, yet unspectacular. At most other circuits DRS would have seen him past Rosberg. Force India again looked good on tyres, and the four stop degradation pattern looks pretty similar to Ferrari.
  • Sutil (Force India): 13th: +0.7s on medium, +1.2s on hard: Unlucky again. And faster than Di Resta again. This comback is better than it looks – Sutil is more impressive than 2011 already, and when it all lines up, there is a big result coming.
  • Maldonado (Williams): 14th: +1.9s on medium, +2.1s on hard: Not much from the upgrades – Williams were less competitive than in Bahrain. Kept the tyres alive much better than Bottas. Would have only gained a place without the penalty.
  • Bottas (Williams): 16th: +3.6s on medium, +1.9s on hard: Faster than Maldonado on the hard, but degradation worse. Horrible on the soft – slow and killed the tyres. Did three stops, would have been faster had he done five the degradation was so bad. Disaster.
  • Vergne (Toro Rosso): Ret: +1.6s on medium, +1.6s on hard: Retired again. But Toro Rosso are one team whose upgrades appeared to be working in Spain. Definitely better – interestingly Vergne was the faster Toro Rosso on hards, and Ricciardo on mediums. Vergne didn’t manage the tyres as well, though. Proabably looking at finishing just ahead of Hamilton.
  • Ricciardo (Toro Rosso): 10th: +1.4s on medium, +1.8s on hard: Back in the top ten – consistent pace and good tyre management put them in the mix. Out-tyre-managed Vergne in another good performance.
  • Pic (Caterham): 17th: +2.4s on medium, +3.1s on hard: Not as close to the mdfield here (except Bottas). But outpaced by van der Garde for the first time.
  • Van der Garde (Caterham): Ret: +1.9s on the medium, 2.6s on hard: Looked like a proper F1 driver for the first time. Was in control of the battle at the back, and it is easy to imagine that he would have beaten Bottas. Really goo job – another breakthrough?
  • Bianchi (Marussia): 18th: +2.3s on medium, +2.3 on hard: Faster on the hard, but slower than Caterham on the mediums. Better tyre management than Caterham, so without the early stop had the pace on the hard to beat Pic/Bottas.
  • Chilton (Marussia): 19th: +2.5s on medium, +2.5s on hard: A couple of tenths from Bianchi on pace, but light years away in tyre management. Had Marussia brought his second stint to an early end and switched to a four stop, probably 30s could have been saved. Bizarre decision.

And so the underlying pace league table looks like this in Spain (can you find the Mercedes) – on hards:

  • 0.0s Alonso
  • +0.6s Vettel
  • +0.8s Massa/Raikkonen
  • +1.0s Webber
  • +1.2s Perez
  • +1.5s Hulkenburg
  • +1.6s Button
  • +1.8s Hamilton/Ricciardo
  • +1.9s Rosberg/Bottas
  • +2.1s Maldonado
  • +2.3s Bianchi
  • +2.5s Chilton
  • +2.6s van der Garde
  • +3.1s Pic

And on the mediums (again relative to the hard tyre pace of Alonso):

  • +0.1s Raikkonen
  • +0.4s Alonso
  • +0.5s Grosjean (based on first stint, so careful with this one)
  • +0.7s Sutil
  • +0.9s Vettel (for stint 2, +1.5s after)/Massa
  • +1.0s Webber
  • +1.1s Di Resta
  • +1.2s Gutierrez
  • +1.4s Ricciardo
  • +1.5s Perez/Rosberg (best guess)/Hulkenburg
  • +1.6s Hamilton/Button/Vergne
  • +1.9s Maldonado/van der Garde
  • +2.3s Bianchi
  • +2.4 Pic
  • +2.5s Chilton
  • +3.6s Bottas

Now that is an interesting table. The pace of Force India and Sauber can be seen, and they are better than Mercedes/McLaren on the mediums. McLaren got their points from the pace on the hard tyre. Nice to see different cars fast on the different tyre types – bodes well for interesting races. Except that they’re changing the tyres. Hmm.